BankMobile targets ‘wow factor’ to reach millennial market

Luvleen SidhuMillennials are having a disruptive influence in all areas of commerce by reshaping long-held assumptions on customer service and delivery.

The first generation to be born into the internet age is used to convenience, expediency, and in having a greater say over their retail experience.

Smart entrepreneurs recognize this and are developing new business models to capitalize on these new preferences.

On Jan. 14, 2015, BankMobile became the only bank to offer a no-fee, online and tablet banking platform. A division of Customers Bank, BankMobile offers checking, savings, lines of credit and joint accounts along with more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs, a higher savings rate than any of the top four banks in the nation, a personal banker, and access to a free financial adviser.

BankMobile Chief Strategist & Chief Marketing Officer Luvleen Sidhu said there were a few main motivations for starting BankMobile. The first developed as BankMobile looked to the future of banking and saw the opportunity to develop what Ms. Sidhu called a “wow experience” for customers by creating an innovate and seamless digital experience.

“Banks are the most antiquated industry by far, with the possible exception of health care,” Ms. Sidhu said.

The second reason was bank fees. Ms. Sidhu said Americans pay $32 Billion in overdraft fees each year, which is more than they spend on vegetables and three times what is spent annually on lung and breast cancer combined.

“Americans are being fee’d to death,” Ms. Sidhu said. “It’s nothing we should be proud of and there should be a change in the system.”

Even though BankMobile does not have physical locations, Ms. Sidhu said the platform aims to have a strong social presence with their customers. People who make a monthly deposit to show BankMobile is their primary bank have access to a VIP program giving them access to a free financial advisor who is well-versed in financial planning. This person is able to help with budgeting and other financial activities.

“The heart of it is about creating a mobile-first digital bank that truly revolutionizes the banking experience,” Ms. Sidhu said. “Our mission is to make banking effortless, enjoyable, and financially empowering, words not typically associated with the banking experience.”

BankMobile looked at every step in the typical banking experience for ways to improve the process for customers, starting with the application process. Ms. Sidhu said most people when opening an account have to eventually visit a physical location, which is inconvenient.

BankMobile clients can open an account in less than five minutes online. They can upload their driver’s license photo to their account to accelerate the onboarding process. They can directly deposit checks and pay bills by taking and uploading a photo. Funds can be transmitted by e-mail or phone number. Common information is stored with BankMobile in order to shorten future transaction times.

Ms. Sidhu said BankMobile is having marketing success using a combination of traditional and newer methods. Display and text ads are driving visits and downloads.

BankMobile’s social media strategy targets Americans with middle incomes and millennials. While they have enjoyed some success with Facebook ads, BankMobile engaged their target groups through the recent BYOB (Build Your Own Bank) crowdsourcing contest, where entrants were invited to submit their ideas of how to improve the banking experience, with the winner receiving a cash prize.

The winning idea was to develop technology linking a person’s datebook with the BankMobile banking app so they can appropriately budget money for birthdays, weddings, and other occasions requiring spending.

As the weather warms up BankMobile will employ street teams who will hit malls and other high-traffic areas, Ms. Sidhu said. They also work with affinity groups frequented by Americans with middle incomes, ones which produce regular newsletters or magazines that carry advertising. BankMobile gives back to organizations whose members open accounts.

BankMobile gives back to organizations whose members open accounts.

Any online entity has to develop strict security protocols. Among the features available to BankMobile customers are the ability to turn their debit card on or off at will, fingerprint login, text alerts for transactions, low balances and deposits, and the ability to quickly check balances by entering a four-digit pin number. They also educate customers about common security risks like not changing passwords and banking on open wireless networks, Ms. Sidhu said.

“People have not viewed their bank as a partner,” Ms. Sidhu said while discussing the financial tools they provide their customers. She added that later this summer their software will allow customers to track spending categories.

She added that later this summer their software will allow customers to track spending categories.

In her spare time, Ms. Sidhu works on projects that establish computer centers in rural India that educate women.

“The potential for mobile technology in India is huge,” Ms. Sidhu said. “We’ve seen in Africa how successful it has been.”

Ms. Sidhu said Indian Prime Minister Nahendra Modi has a goal of incorporating India’s 50 percent unbanked population into the financial system.

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